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Candid Thoughts on Moving from San Francisco to Toronto

My diary entry before moving from to a completely new country.

Tam Pham
Tam Pham
7 min read

I ship out to Toronto, Canada in 3 days. Well, “move” there. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am… captain of a random ship.

*pause for the facepalm*

I’m excited. Nervous. Bittersweet. [insert all of the emotions]

I usually write long-form blog posts helping people with a specific thing… but this piece feels more like a journal. No real points. No conclusion. No substance, really. Just some random, unfiltered things that have been bouncing in my head.

Explore if you’d like.

Moving across the country feels so normal

Pack up my bags, leave everyone I know, to go to a city that I’ve only visited a few times for a killer opportunity? Hell yes.

There was not even a slight hesitation in my decision. Mostly because (a) I really like Toronto (b) I really like this new opportunity and most importantly c) transitioning feels so normal to me.

I reread this article once a year on why “transitioning” is one of the most underrated skills you can develop.

I’ve lived in different cities across the Bay Area, slept on couches to get my initial start in tech, and lived out of a suitcase for 6 months while traveling around the world. This forced me to learn how to make friends, fast.

I learned how to find the best coffee shops to work out of, adjust to my commute to and from the grocery store, and scout for the best boba tea.

Surprisingly, I found a spot that I went to daily while living in South Africa for 1 month!

I knew that when I landed in Toronto, my apartment would be empty since I still needed to buy things for my room. I planned to sleep on the floor for the first night. There was no question about that. My new housemate thinks I’m insane. I saw it as an opportunity to experience what it’s like to live without a bed for a few days and develop more empathy for the homeless.

I think she’s the weird one.

This move is weird to everyone else outside of my bubble

When I told my closest friends and mentors about moving to Toronto, everyone came at me with enthusiasm and love. They all thought that this move would be a great chapter for me personally and professionally.

I announced this to my network on Facebook and there has been 100+ comments/message with positive support.

half of the comments were me congratulating myself

Then I went to a cousin’s wedding where I got to reconnect with family members I haven’t seen for years. When I told them about the move, they looked at me like I was either an amazing comedian with a solid poker face… or legit crazy.

  • “Do you even know anyone in Toronto?”
  • “Why would you live in Canada when you already live in America? Do you know how lucky you are to have an American passport?”
  • “Why can’t you find a job here in the Bay Area?”

This type of reaction shocked me so much! They obviously asked this from a place of care but came across like a detective questioning a potential victim and already assuming he’s guilty.

I have to remind myself that my little bubble of friends is such a small slice of the world’s pie.

I have a friend who recently started his own business and asked me in private: What do you when all your friends think you’re “weird” for going on this entrepreneurial path?

I asked, what do you mean? No one thinks I’m weird. All my friends are either similar to me or years of experience ahead of me.

This answer blew his mind. I guess along the way, I became extremely deliberate about who I want to spend my time with. This meant cutting off people in my life who didn’t serve me for the next season of my life. Pretty ruthless to say but that’s the honest truth.

I’m going to miss the Bay Area

I will probably be back. Or maybe I might love Canada and stay there forever. Who knows? Who cares? Life is amazing.

I spent last month spending quality time with the people I loved. I’ve seen in the past friends moving away from the Bay and frantically trying to schedule as many plans as possible with EVERYONE before they left.

I didn’t feel a need, or even a slight desire, to try to “catch up” on my friendships. I had already prioritized my friendships so any time between now and Canada is simply bonus time.

Many acquaintances have reached to hang out before I go and I (politely) declined all of their requests. My logic is that if we haven’t seen each other for 3 years, why would me moving out of the country be the reason we hang out? Why haven’t we spent time together while I was still living in California for my entire life?

This reminded me of the show Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry meets a distant friend while traveling and declines his invitation to hang out.

“Well, we don’t really see each other in LA… so why if we’re in one city all the time, and we never have lunch in that city, why would we have lunch in the new city?”

I had to say good-bye to all of my students that I’ve taught in schools and through private lessons. Below is a photo of my last lesson with two of my favorite students. We met 2–3 times a week, every week, for the last couple of months. They remind me of the true meaning of what it’s like to be a kid again.

I hosted a few dinners with close friends and met some people 1 on 1. Everything felt so great. So relaxing. I even had a ton of extra time to myself because I didn’t want to fill up all my time in California just to “be busy.”

My favorite trip was taking my friends down to my hometown, San Jose, where they got to see a slice of my childhood. Below is a photo of a small, cozy Vietnamese restaurant that my family and I visited on special occasions like Chinese New Years or my dad’s birthday. I’ve been going here almost my entire life. The cooks there compliment me on how skinny I looked compared to when I was a chubby 5-year-old.

The universe has your back

No, I’m not talking about the fluffy self-help book by Gabrielle. I’m talking about the cheesy and motivational quotes you see life coaches post on Instagram.

I really do believe that the universe works in mysterious ways. Maybe because I don’t believe in God anymore so there’s nothing for me to latch onto. But believing in the universe, or something bigger than yourself calms me.

I felt very anxious this past month thinking about my VISA, moving out of San Francisco, researching my next steps… which distracted me from being in the present. A good friend told me over dinner that the universe will work itself out.

Meaning that whenever I had to do so many things at once, that somehow, the universe made it all happen for me. It always does.

When I didn’t have my VISA to get into Vietnam and was almost kicked off my flight. When I got sick and went to the hospital in the middle of the night on day 2 of being in South Africa. When I was job hunting and talking to as many people as I could to find the “perfect job.”

Everything worked out in the end. How did this manifest?

  • I’m still alive today!
  • I got my VISA to Canada almost exactly when I needed to in order to move forward with the timeline at work.
  • I used up almost all of my cash in the United States!
  • I packed everything I owned into 1 luggage and 2 boxes that fit perfectly.
  • I walked out today to the coffee shop just when the rain started to fade away.
  • I got a new tattoo on a new day even though my appointment got canceled a day before.
  • I went to the dentist and fixed all of my cavities just in time.
  • My chess schedule at school ended right as I was leaving for Canada.

And so much more… Obviously, the rational part of anyone’s brain is thinking “OK Tam, all of these sound 100% normal.” But can ya let a man believe in something that he cannot explain? Is that possible!?

Goddam. I think I’m doing too much yoga.

Toronto time!

Please reach out if you’re in Toronto and want to connect. Building a local community of friends/neighbors will be one of my priorities when I settle down. This post explains how I plan to go about this.

Sat for a fresh tat before I regret that, cat.

Tam Pham Twitter

I'm a writer and bachata dancer currently bouncing around Latin America. Trying to make the most out of my one wild and precious life.

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